Sunday, December 8, 2002

City development

Don't blame 'em, join 'em


I'll say it, if nobody else will. This even though I will jeopardize my middle name, which is Positive News About the City I Love No Matter What. (It's a mouthful, but Pollyanna was already taken.)

I am willing to state the obvious - the obvious being empty windows like gaping teeth in the face of a doddering Fourth Street. The obvious being empty seats at excellent downtown restaurants. The obvious also being a $6.6 million subsidy to spruce up a Saks Fifth Avenue store that cannot attract enough paying customers to spruce up itself. The obvious being a prolonged discussion about panhandlers who probably wish they could go someplace with more prosperous clientele.

Getting the goods

The good people of the townships Anderson and Sycamore may have an interest in the survival of the city core. But they are not obliged to drive past neighborhood merchants to come downtown. And the folks of Mount Lookout and Hyde Park have every right to spend their money in Norwood if that is where the goods are.

And anybody who has visited the Rookwoods can tell you that Norwood definitely has the goods. As does Newport.

Cincinnati citizens, taxpayers, voters, stakeholders - whatever we're calling ourselves these days - have been turning the other cheek for so long, our heads are spinning. Last week, yet another new development was unveiled in Northern Kentucky. As the city of Cincinnati begs for money for The Banks development, the Ohio-based Ackermann Group announced plans to build a $40-million housing-office-retail complex in Bellevue.

John Wendt of Ackermann told The Enquirer's Patrick Crowley that Bellevue officials "helped make this project worth our while." Another partner, Dobbs Ackermann said, "the city of Bellevue is just wonderful."

Well, Cincinnati has a better chance to be "just wonderful" than we did a short time ago.

Strong Mayor Charlie Luken's budget proposal eliminates such redundancies as the planning department, a holdover from the Boss Cox era which separated zoning and historic conservation from economic development. The American Planning Association blasted the proposal, saying it would "give developers undue influence over the city's future growth."

What growth?

And we now have the best, smartest, most civil and hard-working City Council since the early '80s, since people like Arn Bortz and Ken Blackwell, Pete Strauss and David Mann, Bobbie Sterne and Tom Brush. Surely they can ride herd over all those developers who are standing in line, trying to influence our future.

Eagle Realty executives told the city they'd like to build a retail development at Fifth and Race streets, an awfully nice piece of real estate. Too nice to be a parking lot. The city's urban design review board will meet this month to discuss the project.

This could be a test. For City Manager Valerie Lemmie. For our council. For our future development of The Banks. So, if this sounds a little coarse, a little peeved, I'll say it anyway.

Don't screw this up.

E-mail or phone 768-8393.

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